Yesterday was a great day! In the afternoon I had my first meeting with the City of Dallas, and in the evening I was privileged to attend a Habitat for Humanity reception with my friend Sara, honoring the beloved Rex Spivey as the Habitat for Humanity International Volunteer of the Year. There were so many great people and good friends in the same room - it was a really fun evening in a lovely setting in the design district.
My meeting was with two people from the Department of Sustainable Development & Construction. It was a casual meeting and they didn't really know why I wanted to speak with them, and so they just gave me the opening to tell them what I am all about. As I find in so many rooms when I tell people my plan, the room was split (in my estimation) between the group that gives me the "double eye-brow-raise" and the group that says, "Oooh, I think I might like to do that!" I was happy that they were so generous with their time, and they were very helpful, printing sections of the Code for me, and suggesting other connections. It's nice that they had such open doors for me.
While the red carpet has not been rolled out for me to bring tiny houses and a tiny house community to Dallas, nor were any doors slammed shut. I was able to ask elementary questions about zoning and code without judgment, which was really nice as my learning curve is pretty much vertical. I was able to say the random ideas rolling around in my head out loud, to an audience who had some idea whether or not they are feasible or not.
Some examples --
The elder housing idea I have? Not feasible.
But the temporary housing during home renovation construction? Maybe.
The idea of buying a lot in a traditional neighborhood and being able to put 2-3 tiny houses on it? Unlikely, but not impossible.
The idea of a local business wanting to take me under their wing and let me park my tiny house on their property in some type of partnership? Likely, if they have mixed use zoning.
At the start of the meeting, we had traditional thinking. By the end of the meeting, it seemed a lot more like "outside the box" creative thinking, which is always fun. A lot of "what ifs" and "how abouts" were bandied about. It was fun - not necessarily because I saw the way paved for me, but because I was having a conversation the clarified some ideas for me. My first real meeting with that purpose - ! I should have been nervous, but I really wasn't - I think because I believe in my ideas so much.
So then the conversation turned to, well, so what are my real options to try to make this happen?
A PD, or a planned development
A Code Amendment - I'd write a section that applies specifically to tiny houses, and get it on the books. At that point I could then find land to apply it to. I would either have to own the land, or get the owner to agree to change the zoning.
A Deed Restriction - between the land owner and the City, to run with the land.
Look at land in Dallas County, outside the City zoning restrictions.
The PD and the code amendment would each run about 6 grand, and take anywhere from 4-12 months if things ran smoothly.
Admittedly, the details are hazy because my learning curve is so high, but it's a start. They also gave me names of some folks in Building Inspection and Zoning to speak with, and also suggested I speak with someone from The Cedars and the Design Group here in Dallas. I need to look them up. There are a lot of conversations I still need to have and the public (and the City Council) will need to be educated about tiny houses. One example of that is that a tiny house isn't the same as a mobile home, or an RV - a tiny house is in it's own unique category. And my house being on wheels could be misconstrued into a transient or gypsy interpretation, and that sounds a lot less desirable than.... well, [fill in your impression of who think I am and what cool thing you think I am doing... lol].
At the reception I had more entertaining conversations with friends and new acquaintances about my big dream of living tiny - and handed out more blog cards. I learned that the wife of a dear friend has been enthralled with tiny houses for years, and we agreed to get together to dream the details of my house! What fun! As James would remind me, he's waiting for trailer dimensions...
And the end of the evening? It couldn't have been better; when Sara got out of the car she leaned in and said, "You know, however things go for you, I'm behind you." You've just gotta love a good friend and her support - it truly means the world. Thank you, Sara!
Next up: a telephone meeting on Wednesday!